Haden Getting his First Look at Alabama

As just a sophomore, Joe Haden hasn't had any experience facing Alabama. The Gators matched up with the Crimson Tide in the two seasons just before Haden arrived. So the Gator cornerback doesn't know a whole lot about quarterback John Parker Wilson other than what he's seen on film.

"The thing that impresses me the most is when he does get out of the pocket, he'll stay behind the line of scrimmage and let his receivers just keep working around," Joe Haden said. "Sometimes the DBs will come up like he already passed the line of scrimmage and he'll make plays like that. That's one thing that I'll really watch about him is he knows exactly where the line of scrimmage is and he waits until the last second to make a decision."

Wilson won't wow the Gator secondary, but he manages the game well and makes good decisions. He's only thrown six interceptions this season – only Florida's Tim Tebow has thrown fewer picks.

The other challenge for the Florida defense on Saturday will be going up against a quality offensive line. There's not much Haden can do about that, but it will impact the amount of time he'll have to stay in coverage and he'll have to get involved in the run game should Alabama's talented running backs get to the second level of the defense.

"I thought coming in they have a real strong offensive line," Haden said. "That's their main thing, and their running game. So our defensive line and linebackers will be up for the challenge. They have a really good passing game, too, with talented receivers, so defending that, we'll have to come to play, also."

For the last several weeks, Haden and the Gators have been hearing about how they're heading to the BCS title game in Miami. But it's Alabama that's undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the nation. The Tide also finds themselves as 10-point underdogs against the Gators in Atlanta. Haden thinks that will fire up the Alabama squad.

"If I was Alabama I definitely would [be fired up], all the talk about us being in the National Championship game," Haden said. "They're still the undefeated team, still have not lost a game yet. If I was them, I would definitely use that as fuel."

One thing that can shut down Alabama's fire quick is if the Gators get off to a fast start like they have all season. The Gators are outscoring their opponents 304-41 in the first half this season and 136-3 in the first quarter over the last seven games.

"It's going to be real big to get off to a good start," Haden said. "That's what we've been thriving on, just coming out and playing our hardest at the beginning of the game. That kind of sometimes takes the life out of the other team, so basically you want to come out and keep doing what we've been doing, executing, playing hard defense, getting the ball from the defense to the offense, just keep exploding, keep them from putting up points and scoring high like they do. So that's going to be real key for us."

Florida's defensive dominance has become more evident since their loss to Ole Miss. Haden said they've used that game as a motivator over the last seven games.

"I think we came out a little lackadaisical," Haden said. "We didn't come out as explosive as we should have, and we just didn't really like put the pedal to the metal like we should have. That's the one thing we're trying to do is come out the first quarter and just go as hard as we can and keep it going for the rest of the game. So that's the main thing we're going to do, come out with intensity."

Haden is now a experienced sophomore, but that wasn't the case last season. He came to Gainesville as an offensive threat, but the lack of depth at corner made him a starter there by the season opener. The lack of depth, youth and experience are the key differences between last year's defense and this year's.

"The difference this year is mainly in experience," Haden said. "Last year we had a lot of young players, but this year we still have a lot of young players, but just going through the spring, going through that whole season together, learning what's going on and learning defenses, we'd be out there playing, knowing what's really going on. That's the main thing.

"And then our team is just gelling together, like everybody wants to have one common goal. Last year we weren't really as tight as we could be. This year basically it's experience and having leadership like Brandon Spikes and myself and Major Wright, we're just trying to be leaders for the younger players. Like I'm trying to teach them everything I know, and you see how that's going. Everybody knows what's going on with experience and everybody is trying to get to one common goal."

Haden ranks second on the Gators with 69 tackles and has two interceptions with eight pass breakups.


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